BOSTON (CBS) – From weight-loss breakthroughs to skin creams that reverse aging, we’ve all seen those online deals for a so-called free trial. But that temptation to test out a free product can actually cost customers big time.

Just ask Debbie Wagner.

She spotted a new face cream online and decided to give it a try. She only had a to pay a few bucks for shipping. When the sample of Dermiva arrived, Wagner was not impressed.

“It was like a watery cream. It was nothing that you would like to put on your face,” she said.

With no plans to order more, Wagner says another shipment of face cream arrived a month later, along with an eye serum she never ordered and a bill for $160. Buried in the fine print, that free trial actually auto-enrolled Wagner for an expensive, monthly subscription plan.

Complaints about these “free” trials more than doubled between 2015 and 2017, according to the Better Business Bureau. And it costs customers $1.3 billion in unexpected charges.

Beginning April 12, Mastercard will require merchants to get approval at the end of a free trial and before bills begin for a paid subscription. Companies will also need to email or text a receipt and instructions on how to cancel the product.

Debbie Wagner incurred expensive charges after signing up for a free trial. (WBZ-TV)

“If I could scream from the rooftops, I’d tell people please, please, please don’t do free trials,” Wagner warned.

American Express also requires retailers to get customer consent on recurring charges. But, the best advice is to keep a constant eye on your accounts and if you see something suspicious, take action quickly.

Kate Merrill

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